I'm worried I'm going to get too excited about Antony Richardson in 2023. That's one of my biggest takeaways from the NFL Draft, which wrapped up Saturday.
Richardson's landing spot isn't perfect – he went to a team that earned their top-five pick, after all – but it's not a bad one. The Colts have concerns along the offensive line, for sure, but they're likely to have a pretty strong running game with Jonathan Taylor, and the Colts have invested early-round picks at wide receivers like Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce, the former of whom is a bona fide high-level playmaker at the NFL level already. The cupboards aren't bare here, especially compared to landing spots like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud got with the Panthers and Texans, respectively.
And Richardson is going to play in 2023, presumably with a real chance to start in Week 1. You might think that's presumptuous,, and he'd know. Richardson might have some work to do on his accuracy, but he's one of the most athletic quarterbacks we've ever seen, and if you think that's hyperbole, here's how he compares to some of the other athletic standouts at the position:
- Anthony Richardson: 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, 4.43 40-yard dash
- Justin Fields: 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, 4.46 40-yard dash
- Lamar Jackson: 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, 4.39 40-yard dash
- Cam Newton: 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, 4.59 40-yard dash
I mean ... you see why I'm excited, right? Do I really need to say more?
"Oh, but he's inaccurate," some of you are saying. "He's not a real quarterback."
Blah blah blah.
I've heard the same about Fields, Jackson, and Newton, and their game-breaking rushing ability rendered that moot. Richardson is that kind of playmaker, potentially. He enters the NFL with top-12 upside as soon as he becomes a starter, and I'm probably going to take Richardson right around pick 100 in every draft. The upside is just too much to pass up.
So, it's safe to say he's one of the big winners coming out of the draft. The rest of today's newsletter is about identifying the rest of the biggest winners and losers from this year's draft. Later this week, Heath Cummings will have his first round of rankings for this year's rookie class. And in case you missed it, I wrote about Day 1 of the draft here, and I broke down every Day 2 prospect's landing spot here. We'll also have our first mock drafts with the rookies included this week, so you can start to get a sense of how this year's player pool shakes out.
Now, here are the biggest winners and losers from the NFL Draft:
Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
Jackson got his big, record-setting contract just before the start of the draft, and now he's got arguably the most talented receiving corps he's ever played with. I don't know how much Odell Beckham has left – and I don't really expect much from him in Fantasy – but I feel pretty confident he's going to be an upgrade over whatever the Ravens got from the likes of Demarcus Robinson, Devin Duvernay, or DeSean Jackson. And the addition of Zay Flowers in the first round gives the Ravens yet another playmaker in the passing game. Between those two, Rashod Bateman, Mark Andrews, and Isaiah Likely, this group looks deep and talented, and should give Jackson more options than he's ever had in the passing game. We know he only has to be pretty good as a passer to be an elite Fantasy option, and if I don't take one of the elite guys in the first two rounds, I'm going to be taking Jackson in the fifth pretty much every draft.
Geno Smith, QB, Seahawks
The Seahawks made some noise about potentially taking a quarterback in the first round this season, but they ended up doing no such thing. In fact, they invested in a much-needed No. 3 WR in Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round and (then, in an admittedly curious decision) added a running back in the second round for the second year in a row. That isn't great news for Kenneth Walker's Fantasy value, but all in all, this was a pretty great draft for Smith's value. He's a viable No. 1 QB if you want to wait.
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
I was a bit concerned that the Cowboys would invest an early-round pick on a running back, but they ended up waiting until the sixth round to take Deuce Vaughn – an intriguing talent, to be sure, but, at 5-foot-6, 176 pounds, very much a complimentary type of back. As things stand right now, Pollard looks like the clear top back in Dallas, with Vaughn more like the gadget back Pollard was the past few seasons. The Cowboys may still add a free agent back, but right now, Pollard has gotten through the most important parts of the offseason without adding serious competition for the most valuable snaps. He's a first-rounder right now.
Mixon may end up being available for a team like the Cowboys eventually, but the Bengals certainly haven't approached this offseason like they are desperate to move on from Mixon. Chase Brown is more like a complimentary back, befitting his fifth-round price, and there isn't an obvious three-down alternative to Mixon on this roster. That doesn't mean the Bengals won't eventually move on from him, but they haven't telegraphed that move yet.
Rachaad White, RB, Buccaneers
It's not necessarily surprising that a team seemingly on the verge of a rebuild opted not to invest big capital in a running back, but it's still pretty good news for White's value. They've already released Leonard Fournette, so the only real competition for playing time White has on the depth chart is Chase Edmonds, who had two different opportunities to emerge as a starter last season and did little with either. The Bucs also signed Sean Tucker to a UDFA deal and many expected Tucker would be a mid-round draft pick but he came with a tricky medical situation. He's a player to keep an eye on this summer, but unlikely to unseat White in year one. This might be a pretty bad offense, but right now, White looks like the clear lead back, and a potential top-24 RB for Fantasy, especially in PPR.
Devon Achane, RB, Dolphins
You almost had to laugh when the Dolphins used one of just four picks in the draft on a running back with track star speed. It's just incredibly on-brand. It was hardly a position of need, but that only makes it an even more intriguing landing spot for the Texas A&M speedster. He'll likely open the season a clear third on the depth chart, but Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert are hardly an insurmountable pair of obstacles. Achane might end up being the first of that trio drafted in most Fantasy leagues, and if you can be patient, he could pay off in a big way in this offense.
Treylon Burks, WR, Titans
The Titans are in a weird spot, and it feels like they might be on the verge of totally blowing things up. However, that's not going to happen just yet, and Burks looks like the clear top receiving threat on this team right now. Chigoziem Okonkwo also looks like a winner here, as the Titans only added a tight end in the fifth round and a wide receiver in the seventh. This offense might just be a mess, but if they aren't, it'll be because Burks takes a big step forward in his second season, and he's well positioned to do so.
Sam LaPorta, TE, Lions
Rookie tight ends generally don't contribute much, which is worth keeping in mind after we saw four go in the first 50 picks and eight go in the first 100 this year. But if any of them are going to contribute for Fantasy, I like LaPorta's chances in Detroit. Remember, the Lions traded T.J. Hockenson last season and will be playing without Jameson Williams for the first six games this season, so there's certainly an opportunity here. LaPorta is a very good athlete whose production in college (657 yards on 58 catches as a senior) is more impressive when you realize he was on a dreadful Iowa offense that passed for just 2,037 yards last season; he had 30 more catches and 259 more yards than any other player on the team. If you want to wait to draft a tight end, LaPorta will be among the players worth considering with your last pick.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams
The Rams added two pass catchers in the draft: Tight end Davis Allen and wide receiver Puka Nacua in the fifth round. This is a team whose No. 2 receiver last season had 620 yards on 72 catches – and that was with Cooper Kupp missing eight games. Kupp should be one of the most productive receivers in the league again this season, but beyond him, this offense is totally bereft of playmakers. It's going to be hard for Stafford to bounce back to the QB1 conversation with weapons like this.
Jared Goff, QB, Lions
The likeliest outcome this season is that Goff will keep things moving coming off a very good season, but there's some downside risk here now. Jameson Williams was expected to take a big step forward as one of the team's primary playmakers, but he'll be out for the first six games with a suspension, and this team is officially thin on proven playmakers after Amon-Ra St. Brown. With the addition of Hendon Hooker in the third round, it's not unreasonable to think the Lions could get off to a slow start and opt to see what they have in Hooker – he is 25, after all, so they probably want to find out if he can be their QB of the future sooner than later. Goff was a pretty solid Fantasy QB last season, but there's a chance that ends up being a one-time deal.
Kenneth Walker, RB, Seahawks
Walker showed a lot of upside as a rookie, but he wasn't perfect despite some big numbers. He was a boom-or-bust runner who left a lot of yards on the field – per NFL Next Gen Stats, he picked up more yards than expected on just 33.5% of his carries, the second-worst mark among qualifiers. He hit on plenty of big plays to make up for that, but if the Seahawks decide they want a bit more consistency from the running game, the addition of second-rounder Zach Charbonnet gives them a viable alternative. Because he doesn't catch many passes, Walker's big-play ability in an offense without much competition for touches made him a borderline RB1 for Fantasy; I can't draft him there with Charbonnet lurking now. I wrote more about that here.
Tyler Allgeier, RB, Falcons
Allgeier did nothing wrong, but he's going to go from a 1,000-yard rookie runner to a clear backup after the Falcons took Bijan Robinson No. 8 overall. There will still be room for Allgeier to get 8-10 carries most weeks, but Robinson is going to dominate the pass-catching and goal-line opportunities here, so Allgeier will be relegated to basically pure handcuff value for 2023. That's a tough break for a guy who was pretty good as a rookie.
Odell Beckham, WR, Ravens
I didn't expect Beckham to do much after signing with the Ravens, but you could make a case for him emerging as a viable Fantasy option if his only real competition for targets behind Mark Andrews was the injury-prone Rashod Bateman. However, with the addition of Zay Flowers in the first round, you're looking at a situation where Beckham is hoping to be the No. 1 option but very well might be No. 4 – in a medium-volume passing game. I won't be drafting him inside of the top 100 this season.
I really didn't love the landing spots for many of the rookie wide receivers, at least for 2023. I think Jordan Addison has a pretty good chance to be the No. 2 option for the Vikings, and Jonathan Mingo has a pretty clear path to being a top-two target for Bryce Young in Carolina. Other than those two? Jaxon Smith-Njigba needs Tyler Lockett to take a big step backward; Quentin Johnston seems more like a 2024 Mike Williams replacement; Flowers is in that suddenly crowded Ravens passing game. Jayden Reed could emerge as the primary slot receiver for the Packers, but we just don't know what to expect from Jordan Love in his first season. Rashee Rice could beat out Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore for a starting job for the Chiefs, but we just saw the Chiefs prove willing to let both of them occupy minimal roles in the offense last season … Yeah, there aren't necessarily a ton of obvious opportunities here. That doesn't mean those players won't be worth drafting, but you'll need to understand that it could take a while for most of the rookie WRs to contribute much as in 2023.
K.J. Osborn, WR, Vikings
Osborn is a former fifth-round pick who had more than 60 yards just three times last season, so all he really had going for him for Fantasy was the possibility he might be the clear No. 2 WR after the Vikings parted ways with Adam Thielen this offseason. The addition of Addison very much complicates that. Addison may prove to be a slow learner, which could open the door for Osborn to contribute, but I'm going to bet on the first rounder who had 2,557 yards and 26 touchdowns over his final 25 college games taking advantage of that opportunity.